Ivan (her russian protec.., p.10
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       Ivan (Her Russian Protector #1), p.10

         Part #1 of Her Russian Protector series by Roxie Rivera
 
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  Chapter Six

  Ivan hated police stations. They set his teeth on edge and brought back memories he'd just as soon forget. Of course, he hadn't ever been on this side of the equation. The experience of being taken in to give a report and interview was much different than being hauled out of bed and cuffed for committing some crime.

  They kept the interview rooms unnecessarily cold. He noticed the way Erin shivered next to him. She wore jeans and a t-shirt with his jacket draped around her shoulders. He deduced it wasn't the chill that left her hands trembling but the post-adrenaline shakes from surviving such a brazen attack on their lives.

  Wanting to reassure her, Ivan reached for her hand beneath the table and dragged it onto his leg. He glanced at her and winked. She smiled, just for him, and let some of the fear ease from her pretty face.

  His face, on the other hand, didn't look so good. Taking down two armed men in the dark wasn’t as easy as the movie stars made it look. He'd escaped the ordeal with only a black eye, busted mouth and gashes on his shoulders and arms. The two gunshots he'd narrowly missed had been pure luck.

  It had been a long time since he'd felt real fear. The idea that those thugs had come into his home to hurt Erin had enraged him. Feeling bullets snap by his ear and slam into the wall behind him had turned that rage into fear. Not for himself but for Erin. He'd never forgive himself if anything had happened to her. The need to protect and defend her had spurred him onward, right into the face of danger.

  "Well, Mr. Markovic, since you managed to de-escalate the situation without killing the two intruders, you saved yourself a hell of a lot of hassle." The detective from the gang unit finished scribbling his signature across the statements he and Erin had given. "Unfortunately, this won't be the last you see of me. You'll both likely be called to testify if this goes to jury trial."

  Ivan inwardly grimaced. The last thing he wanted was to be called to testify. He hoped those two idiots he'd put in headlocks and choked into submission would be smart enough to take a plea deal and spare everyone the headache.

  There was a knock on the door to the interview room. A second later, a patrol officer poked his head into the room. "Sorry to interrupt but you're needed out here, Detective Santos."

  "Sure." The detective smiled at them. "I'll be right back."

  Ivan nodded and watched the man disappear. His inner alarm clanged. Was this some kind of game? It wasn't the first time two police officers had tried to pull this kind of ruse on him. He eyed Erin carefully and hoped she'd get the message he was trying to send. If those two men were listening in from the connected observation room, he didn't want Erin to accidentally say anything that might cause them more problems.

  "Ivan?"

  "Yes?" He reached out and touched her cheek.

  "I'm sorry about all of this."

  He shook his head. "Don't be. It's not your fault."

  "Isn't it?"

  "No, angel moy. It's—"

  The door opened and the detective returned. He didn't come all the way into the room. Instead he said, "Miss Hanson, is your sister's name Ruby?"

  Ivan's gut clenched. He silently prayed this detective wasn't about to tell them Ruby was dead.

  Erin went rigid. "Yes."

  "So I suppose I don't have to ask why those two Hermanos cockroaches were trying to kill the two of you," the detective said with a frown. He sighed and waved his hand. "You two should come with me. Your sister was picked up an hour ago. She's been in a cell downstairs but they brought her up here for questioning."

  Ivan gripped Erin's hand as they left the interview room and trailed the detective to another room. They were led into a smaller, dimly lit space with a two-way mirror. Ivan let go of Erin's hand so she could make her way to the glass. She put her hand on it and stared at her sister.

  Ivan had thought Ruby looked terrible last night when they'd found her in a pool of her own piss and vomit but she stunned him by looking even worse now. Her dirty hair hung in greasy clumps around her face. She'd found a pair of slacks and a blouse that looked like they belonged on a grandmother. Hell, they probably had! Knowing Ruby, she'd likely stolen them from another patient before escaping the hospital.

  The sleeves of the white blouse were torn and blood-stained. Her hands had been bandaged. She had some small scrapes on her face and kept rubbing at her neck and forehead. In short, Ruby was in a bad, bad way.

  "She was picked up breaking into a pharmacy not far from the hospital. She managed to sneak out of the hospital without any of the nurses or doctors seeing her." The detective hesitated. "One of our patrol officers reported warning her away from a known prostitution area around eight this evening. It looks like she tried to make some cash the old-fashioned way, and when that didn't work, she just broke into a pharmacy to get what she wanted."

  Ivan hated that Erin had to hear all this. He cleared his throat. "I'll call a lawyer for her."

  "She's going to need one." Detective Santos took a few steps toward Erin. "You know that she's being hunted by the Hermanos and the Albanians, right? I mean, if my informants have kicked that piece of information up to me here in the gang squad, you must know."

  Erin nodded. "I do."

  The detective glanced back at Ivan. "I know enough about your boyfriend to be damn sure that he knows exactly what kind of trouble the Albanians and Hermanos can make for you."

  Ivan didn't even try to deny his history. It wasn't exactly a secret, after all. His interest remained on Erin. Her shoulders slumped with defeat. He desperately wanted to pull her into his arms and kiss away her fears but right now she had choices to make about her future.

  "We found a body in a junk yard earlier this afternoon. It's Andrei Kominsky." Detective Santos dropped that bombshell without warning. "I'd heard that he was trying to muscle in on some Hermanos territory and had been stealing from the Albanians. I guess your sister is the girlfriend everyone on the street wanted to find."

  Erin nodded. "Yes."

  "It looks like the Albanians were the ones who finished him off. I'm just guessing here but I think they took out Andrei and left your sister's score to be settled by the Hermanos." Her met Ivan's stare. "After what happened in your home, I doubt you'll have to worry about those jerks coming back for more from the two of you. They'll respect your strong response."

  "But Ruby?" Erin asked softly.

  "If you bail her out, they'll come for her—and you might get caught in the crossfire."

  It was the ugly truth that Ivan had been hoping to spare Erin. What the detective wasn't saying was that it would be equally as difficult for the jail to keep Ruby safe from retribution on the inside.

  "Look, she's a drug addict in need of rehab. When we're done questioning her, she's going to go straight to the special medical unit for addicts undergoing withdrawal. She'll be safe there for a few days. Maybe this thing with the Hermanos will have blown over by then."

  Detective Santos shot Ivan a look that was easily interpreted. What he meant was that maybe Ivan would be able to use his contacts to iron out some kind of peace.

  "And then what?" Erin asked, her voice wobbling with sadness.

  "A good lawyer will get her into one of the rehab programs run by the jail. If she stays clean, she could do six months, maybe a year, and then probation."

  "If she stays clean," Erin repeated skeptically.

  Ivan couldn't blame her skepticism. When they'd been at the hospital, she'd told him all about the many times she'd taken Ruby to meetings and even arranged rehab. None of it had worked. Hopefully this nightmare experience would be the thing that helped Ruby get a grip on her life.

  When Erin turned to face him, he saw the uncertainty etched on her face. "Ivan, what do I do?"

  Even though it killed him to offer, he said, "I'll pay her bail, if you want to get her out tonight."

  "Thank you." Erin inhaled slowly. "But no. I think I'm done bailing her out of trouble. She's never going to get better if I keep helping her escape the con
sequences."

  Ivan knew how hard it was for Erin to do something so harsh but he respected her all the more for it. On the verge of tears, she hugged herself tightly. "May I see her?"

  Detective Santos nodded. "I can give you a few minutes."

  Ivan held out his hand and Erin came to him. He wrapped his arms around her small frame and hugged her tight. He brushed lips against her temple. "Go talk to Ruby. Make peace with her." He caressed her face. "I'll call a lawyer."

  With a nod, Erin slipped out of his arms and followed the detective out of the room. Ivan took his phone from his pocket and scrolled through his list of contacts. The lawyer who handled the gym's business affairs answered on the fourth ring. "Jack, sorry to bother you so late at night but I need a favor…"

 
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